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Basic Survival Skills Everyone Should Know

BEST SURVIVAL BASICS – US Army Survival Approach

The best basic survival approach was created by the US army. It is not surprising when we take into account two facts:

  1. Soldiers find themselves in survival situations most often, 
  2. US troops operate on all continents in all possible conditions. For training purposes US army produced a manual with survival rules that have two important features: they are simple – easy to e remembered by soldiers and universal – applicable to any survival situation.

According to the manual, when you find yourself in a survival situation, you have to perform 2 sets of activities:



The key to remember all survival actions is the word ”SURVIVAL”. Each letter of the word represents one action that has to be taken in order to survive. Below you can find each letter expanded into a description of the action.

S – Size Up the Situation

Size Up Your Surrounding

Slow down and relax for a second. Release your senses. Determine the pattern of the area you are in. Get a feel for it. Every environment, whether forest, jungle, or desert, has its rhythm or pattern. This rhythm includes movements and sounds made by animals, birds, and insects. It may also include people movements. Use your senses of hearing, smell, and a sight to get a feel of where you are. Evaluate your environment – is it safe, moderate, hostile. Should you trust people you may meet or not.

Size Up Your Physical Condition

The events that put you in the present position (accident, plane crash, etc.) or the trauma of being in a survival situation may have caused you to overlook the wounds you received. Check yourself for them and give yourself first aid. Take care to prevent any further harm to your body. For example, drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration. If you are in a cold or wet climate, put on additional clothing to prevent hypothermia. Consider your state – do you need immediate rest, food or water. First aid is one of the primary subjects you need to concentrate on – if your health fails you, you may not cope with a survival situation. For more detail on the subject check basic Survival Medicine.

Size Up Your Equipment

Unless you are an equipped soldier or a person who was prepared for a survival situation, you probably will not have much useful survival gear. Nonetheless, it is always worth checking what you have with yourself. As the art of wilderness survival is based mostly on improvisation, everything may prove useful. Look around yourself – if you came out of an accident, maybe there are some things from the car, boat or plane which you can use to build a shelter or as tools. Even if you do not come up with an idea for the use of every single thing, it is worth knowing what is there. Once a need arises, you will know what to use to survive.

U – Use All Your Senses, Undue Haste Makes Waste

If you react too quickly, without thinking or planning, you may make a wrong move. That move may result in a loss of energy, in an injury or even death. In some parts of the world, it may result in interaction with hostile locals. Don’t move just for the sake of taking action. Consider all aspects of the situation you’re in (size up your situation) before making a decision what action you will undertake. If you act in haste, you may damage or lose some of your equipment. In your haste you may also become disoriented and not know which way to go. Plan your moves. Prepare for various outcomes of your actions. Use all your senses to evaluate the situation. Note sounds and smells. Be sensitive to temperature changes. Be observant.

R – Remember Where You Are

If you have a map – spot your location on it and relate it to the surrounding terrain. If you don’t have a map – try to position yourself in your head as good as you can. This is a basic principle that you must always follow. If there are others with you, make sure they also know their location. In case you got separated, everyone will manage to cope on his own. Always pay close attention to where you are and to where you are heading. Do not rely on others in the group to keep track of the route. If you can, try to determine how your position relates to:

  • location of civilization
  • location of any road or tracks
  • location of sources of water
  • areas that can provide shelter or if necessary – concealment
  • other places, where you can receive help

This information will allow you to make the right decisions when you are in a survival situation.

V – Vanquish Fear and Panic

Panic is one of your greatest enemies in a survival situation. If uncontrolled, it can completely destroy your ability to make an intelligent decision. It may cause you to react to your feelings and imagination rather than to your situation. You should vanquish your fear as it will not help you. An average person with a little bit of skill and some imagination can cope with many extreme survival situations. Fear and panic never help – try to keep a cool mind and think reasonably. Try to remind yourself of this survival guide. You know you can make it!

I – Improvise

Wilderness survival is an art of improvisation. Amount of various situations you can find yourself in is so broad that no survival guide can cover them. You may have to produce or adapt tools, build shelters, make fires, aid yourself or others, having only a few objects with you. You will have to use your mind and improvise. You can train for this section if you want: Take a tool designed for a specific purpose and see how many other uses you can make of it. Learn to use natural objects around you for different needs. An example is using a rock for a hammer. Even if you have a fantastic survival kit, it will run out or wear out after a while. Your imagination must take over when your kit wears out. In modern society, we are used to having specialized tools for each action, but people lived many centuries in the wilderness using just a handful of tools throughout their lives.

V – Value Living

This part concerns the mental attitude towards survival situations. The will to live – placing a high value on living is vital in survival situations. No doubt situations you may encounter will be tough, hard and painful. You may be extremely dehydrated, hungry, sore, injured, tired and cold. You may feel that it would be easier to simply stop fighting and let go. YOU CAN NEVER DO THAT !!!. Refusal to give in to problems and obstacles that face you will give you the mental and physical strength to endure. You have to value your life and fight for it. Find experiences from your life that make you want to live – survive. The will to give incomes because you seek relief from harsh conditions around you. Organize your surrounding and make your environment work for you and then feel relieved. You will not feel relieved if you give in – you will be DEAD and will feel nothing… ever again.

A – Act Like the Natives

The natives and animals of a region have through the centuries adapted to their environment. You can learn from them where and how to get food and water. You may have watched programs or read books about tribes who lived in similar conditions to your survival environment. If you are on the snow, try to build a shelter from the snow like the Eskimo, if you are in the desert, hide in the sand and make a turban to protect your head from the sun. Animal life in the area can also give you clues on how to survive. Animals also require food, water, and shelter. By watching them, you can find their sources. You need to have in mind though, that many animals can eat food that is toxic to humans, you have to be therefore very careful when using this method of finding food.

L – Live by Your Wits, But for Now, Learn Basic Skills

These are the exact words of the last rule. You will have to use your wits to go through a survival situation, but at this point, you should focus on learning the basics of wilderness survival provided by this guide. The more you know about survival techniques, the more self-confident you will be in a survival situation. Training significantly improves your chances of survival.

Now a recap

  • Size Up Situation. (Surroundings, Physical Condition, Equipment)
  • Use All Your Senses. Undue Haste Makes Waste
  • Remember Where You Are.
  • Vanquish Fear and Panic
  • Improvise
  • Value Living
  • Act Like The Natives
  • Live By Your Wits


In order to survive in the wilderness, you have to develop a survival pattern that lets you beat the enemies of survival. When developing the survival pattern you need to bear in mind your basic survival physical needs:

  1. food
  2. water
  3. shelter
  4. fire
  5. first aid
  6. signals

The order of importance of the following needs varies, depending on conditions. For example, if you are injured, first aid has top priority no matter what climate you are in. If you are in a cold climate, you will first need a fire and a shelter, whereas, in the desert, you will first think about water and protection from the heat.

Majority of the rest of the manual deals with ways fulfilling these basic survival needs, but you will also find information on other survival matters such as surviving on open waters.


Purpose of Survival Shelters

A skill of building a shelter in various survival situations is crucial. A shelter can protect you from the sun, insects, wind, rain, snow, sun and hot or cold temperatures. It can also give you a feeling of well being. Hiding in a shelter creates a feeling of security. Also in hostile areas, shelters can hide you from possible dangers.

Size of a survival shelter

The most common mistake in building survival shelters is constructing them to large. Shelter of proper size is one in which you can comfortably lie down. If you plan on using it for a longer period of time, you may want to be able to sit in it, but that is all. The bigger the shelter, the more difficult it is to keep it warm.

Shelter site selection

A site that you will choose for shelter should:

  • Contain material to make the type of shelter you need – it would be extremely inconvenient to carry materials from a distant place to build your shelter. When in a survival situation, you should try to preserve your energy, unless you have a huge supply of food and you are warm.
  • Be large enough and level enough for you to lie down comfortably – as you will see below, many types of shelters are really small. They allow you to lie down only. It may be a bit uncomfortable, but such shelters are quick to build and they isolate you more efficiently from the climate outside.

Apart from the above mentioned, depending on your environment, while choosing a shelter site you should also consider:

  • Suitability for signaling – you will probably spend most of the time in or around your shelter, therefore you should be able to signal for help from there.
  • Protection against wild animals, or rocks and dead trees that might fall.
  • Freedom from insects, reptiles, and poisonous plants.

Do not overlook natural formations that provide shelter – often this may be your best choice. Examples of these are caves, rocky crevices, clumps of bushes, small depressions, large rocks on leeward sides of hills, large trees with low-hanging limbs, and fallen trees with thick branches.

Apart from possible good options, there are also sites you should avoid when choosing your shelter site. For instance:

  • Avoid flash flood areas in foothills.
  • Avoid avalanche or rockslide areas in mountainous terrain.
  • Avoid sites near bodies of water that are below the high watermark.
  • Avoid low ground like ravines, narrow valleys, and creek beds. Low areas usually collect heavy cold air at night and are therefore colder than the surrounding high ground. Also thick, brushy, low ground harbors more insects.
  • Avoid places inhabited by dangerous animals, ticks, mites, scorpions, poisonous snakes, stinging ants, bees nests, etc.
  • Avoid loose rocks, dead limbs, coconuts, or other natural growth than could fall on your shelter or put you in danger.

Types of shelters

Once you have chosen a site for your shelter, you need to determine what type of a shelter you are going to build. Questions to ask yourself at this stage are:

  • How much time and effort will it take to build the type of shelter you have in mind in a particular environment? – you want to construct a shelter that will protect from outside conditions, but on the other hand, you should also focus on limiting the amount of energy that you will spend on building it.
  • Will the type of shelter protect you adequately from the outside conditions?
  • Will you have sufficient tools to conclude each stage of building or will you be able to make the tools? – you do not want to work for many hours only to find out that you won’t be able to finalize your concept because of lack of ax or saw.
  • Will the amount of material on-site or around it be sufficient to create a big enough shelter?

Only if the answer to all of the above questions is YES, you can commence building your shelter. If not – you should spend more time thinking and planning. Maybe you can use some other materials or build a different type of shelter, or perhaps look for a better site.

REMEMBER! Survival shelters presented in this Outdoor Survival Guide are just examples – model shelter types. In your survival situation, you will almost certainly be unable to build an exact replica of shelters presented here – YOU WILL HAVE TO IMPROVISE. Shelters presented here are for guidance on various types of solutions to help direct your mind to the best solution in your survival situation.



It takes only a short time and minimal equipment to build this lean–to shelter. You need a poncho or some sort of wide cloth or tilt (one that is waterproof would be best, but if properly stretched almost everyone will do), 2 to 3 meters of rope, three stakes about 30 centimeters long, and two trees or two poles 2 to 3 meters apart. Before selecting the trees you will use or the location of your poles, check the wind direction. Ensure that the back of your lean-to will be into the wind. This will protect you from the wind and rain.

To make a lean–to shelter, follow the steps:

  • Cut the rope in half. Tie halves of the rope to corners of one side of the cloth.
  • Attach about 10–centimeter drip sticks to each rope about 2.5 centimeters from the cloth. These drip sticks will keep rainwater from running down the ropes into the lean–to.
  • Tie the ropes about waist high on the trees (uprights). Use a round turn and two half hitches with a quick-release knot.
  • Spread the cloth and anchor it to the ground – you can do it by putting stones on the remaining corners or by making wholes in the corners and anchoring your lean–to with sharpened sticks put through the holes and into the ground.

You can now easily lie down in your shelter. Remember to isolate yourself from the ground, especially in cold climates. You can use leaves or pine needles for example. Just spread a sufficient layer on the ground.

If you plan to use the lean–to shelter for more than one night, or you expect rain, make a center support for your lean–to. You can make it with a line. Attach one end of the line to the center of your top edge and the other end to an overhanging branch. Make sure there is no slack in the line. Another method is to place a wooden stick upright under the center of the top edge of the lean–to. This method, however, will restrict your space and movements in the shelter.

To additionally protect yourself from wind and rain, you can place some insulating material, your rucksack, or other equipment at both sides of your shelter.


This type of shelter is usually a little better than the lean-to. It also protects you from the elements on two sides. It has, however, less usable space and observation area than a lean-to, which may be a significant drawback in some situations. To make this tent, you need a poncho, two 1.5 to 2.5–meter ropes, six sharpened sticks about 30 centimeters long, and two trees 2 to 3 meters apart.

To make a tent shelter, follow the steps: 

  • Attach the rope to the center of the cloth on each side – the easiest way will be to make wholes on each side of the cloth. To easily find its centerfold the cloth in half; a line of folding is the center. If the cloth is too delicate to be tight through wholes, you will simply have to grab handfuls of the cloth on each side and tie small knots on these ‘ears’. You will then attach ropes to the knots.
  • Tie the other ends of these ropes at about knee height to two trees 2 to 3 meters apart and stretch the cloth tight – be careful not to rip it.
  • Draw both sides of the cloth tight and secure them to the ground like in a lean-to described above.

You will almost certainly have to support it in the center. Best way to do that is to build an A-frame inside the tent. Use two long enough sticks, one with a forked end, to form the frame and place it in the middle of the tent. When lying in the tent, you will have one stick from each side of yourself. If you push them a little into the ground they will protect the shelter from your sudden movements.


A one-man shelter can be easily made using a wide cloth. It requires a tree and three poles. One pole should be about 4.5 meters long and the other two about 3 meters long.

To make a one-man shelter, follow the steps:

  • Secure the 4.5–meter pole to the tree at about waist height. It should be attached firmly not to fall on you during your sleep. Best way to do that is to find a tree with a low branch that would support one side of the pole.
  • Lay the two 3–meter poles on the ground on either side of and in the same direction as the 4.5–meter pole.
  • Lay a piece of cloth over the 4.5-meter pole, so that about the same amount of material hangs on both sides.
  • Tuck the excess material under the 3–meter poles and spread it on the ground inside your shelter to serve as a floor. Remember though that it will not be enough to protect you from the cold and damp ground – you will have to introduce more isolation.
  • Stake down or put a spreader between the two 3–meter poles at the shelter’s entrance so they will not slide inward. Staking down is a little more convenient, as you will not have a pole lying across your entrance.
  • If you have any excess material, you can use it to cover the entrance. If not, you can place there your belongings to protect you from the weather.

This type of shelter is small enough to be easily warmed. A candle used carefully, can keep the inside temperature comfortable. This shelter will, however, be unsatisfactory when snow is falling, as even a light snowfall will cave it in.



If you find yourself in a wooded area and have enough natural materials, you can make a field-expedient lean-to survival shelter without the aid of tools or with only a knife. It takes longer to make this type of shelter than it does to make other types, but it is strong and protects well. If you expect to wait longer for help, you should consider building this type of shelter.

To build this survival shelter, you will need two trees about 2 metres apart, one pole about 2 meters long and at least 2.5 centimeters in diameter, five to eight poles about 3 meters long and at least 2.5 centimeters in diameter to serve as beams, cord or vines to secure the horizontal support to the trees, and other poles, saplings, or vines to criss-cross the beams.

To build this shelter, follow the steps:

  • Tie the 2–meter pole to the two trees at the waist to chest height, depending on what height the shelter will be – in colder climates a lower shelter will make it easier for you to control the temperature. The horizontal pole will create horizontal support. If standing trees are not available, construct a biped using Y-shaped sticks or two tripods.
  • Place one end of the beams (3–meter poles) on one side of the horizontal support pole. As with all lean-to type shelters, be sure to place shelters backside into the wind.
  • Crisscross saplings or vines on the beams.
  • Cover the created framework with brush, leaves, pine needles or grass, starting from the bottom and working your way up like shingling. Once the layer is thick enough, you can secure it by placing long, 3–meter poles on top, just like when building a framework – leaves and grass will not be blown by the wind.
  • Again, remember about isolation from the ground.

In cold weather add to your lean-to shelter comfort by building a fire reflector wall, just like the one in the photograph. To do it, drive four 1.5 meter long stakes into the ground to support the wall. Stack logs on top of one another between the support stakes. You have to form two rows of stacked logs to create an inner space within the wall that you can fill with dirt, only then will the wall be windproof. This action not only strengthens the wall but makes it more heat reflective. Bind the top of support stakes so that the logs and dirt will stay in place.

With just a little more effort you can build a drying rack. You just need to cut a few poles. Lay one end of the poles on the lean-to support and the other end on top of the reflector wall. Tie smaller sticks across these poles or simply hang ropes between them. You now have a place to dry clothes, meat, or fish.

You can lit a fire inside this lean-to without the risk of hurting yourself. The best method is to dig a hole by the fire reflector and lit a fire in there. This way you will not risk accidental burning of your shelter and will be able to sleep by the burning fire without the risk of getting hurt.


This is the best type of shelter from among all. It is warm and strong and not so difficult to build. If you are in a cold climate, where shelter is essential for your survival, you should build this type of shelter.

To build this shelter, follow the steps:

  • Make a tripod with two short stakes and a long ridgepole, by placing one end of ridgepole on top of a sturdy base or by tying it to a tree at about waist height.
  • If you decided on a tripod, it is good to secure the ridgepole with additional poles – it needs to hold firmly as it will support the whole shelter.
  • Prop large sticks along both sides of the ridgepole to create a wedge-shaped ribbing effect, just like in the picture on the right. Ensure the ribbing is wide enough to accommodate your body, gear that should be protected from the weather and that it is steep enough to shed moisture.
  • Place finer sticks crosswise on the ribbing. These form a latticework that will keep the insulating material like grass, pine needles or leaves from falling through the ribbing into the shelter.
  • Add light and, if possible, dry soft debris over the ribbing. You will want the insulating material to be at least 1 meter thick – the thicker the better. Now you can see how strong the ribbing must be to hold this weight of debris.
  • Just as with the lean-to, you should place additional poles on top of the insulating layer to prevent it from being blown away.
  • If the climate is cold, you should cover the entrance to the shelter. You can consider building a door, which should be windproof, or simply pile insulating material at the entrance – you will drag it inside to cover the entrance.


In most cases, food is your second survival essential, just after water. It provides energy and many microelements necessary for the proper functioning of your body.

The general approach to hunting

Apart from a few exceptions, basically everything that walks crawls, flies or swims is suitable for eating by humans. Nonetheless, gaining food through hunting is not an easy task. Unless you have a chance to take larger animals, you should concentrate your efforts on the smaller game. Smaller animals are also easier to prepare for eating.

Before you decide which game to hunt, you should investigate what classes of animals can be found in your environment. For example, animals which have somewhat fixed feeding areas, those that have trails leading from one to another or those who occupy certain areas like dens or nests are perfect for trapping. Knowing their habits, you can place snares on their paths and simply wait. Larger animals, on the other hand, move across vast areas and are therefore difficult to trap. Knowing the habits and food choices of animals from your area will make hunting much easier.

Before moving to the hunting technics for various species, it is crucial to understand that in a survival situation you should overcome your aversion to any possible food sources. Snakes, insects, worms, frogs and many other species can be good sources of food. In a survival situation, you will most likely not have the comfort to choose what you want to eat. You should look for these food sources that are the easiest and safest to obtain. Only after securing your situation, building a shelter and providing enough supplies to be safe, it may be reasonable to widen your food selection and include animals that are more difficult to catch. You should always avoid hunts that may be dangerous for you – getting injured in the wilderness is extremely dangerous.

Survival hunting technics for various species


Insects in 65 to 80 percent are made of protein, whereas a regular stake contains only 20 percent protein. This proves the high quality of insects as a source of food. Moreover, insects due to their abundance are very easy to catch. You should avoid all adult insects that sting or bite, hairy insects and brightly colored ones, which are often poisonous. Also avoid eating spiders and common disease carriers such as mosquitoes, ticks, and flies.

Looking for food, check rotting logs lying on the ground. Among others, you can find there ants, beetles, termites and grubs (beetle larvae). Look for other natural insect nests on the ground: grassy areas are those places where insects can be easily seen, also stones and boards or other materials lying on the ground – all these provide perfect nesting sites for insects. Also, insect larvae are edible.

Beetles, grasshoppers and other insects that have a hard outer shell will have parasites. You should cook them before eating. Also, remove any barbed legs and wings. There are various ways of preparing insects. You can cook them alone or with vegetation, grind them into a paste or simply eat raw. Taste of insects varies among species. You can try various methods for preparing insects found in your environment to find the best solution.


Worms are an excellent protein source. You can dig for them in damp humus soil and watch for them on the ground after the rain. If after capturing you drop them accidentally, put them into clean, potable water for a few minutes and they will naturally purge or wash themselves out. After that you can eat them raw.


Freshwater shrimp can reach sizes anywhere from 0.25 to 2.5cm. Best places to find them are floating algae or mud bottoms of pond and lakes where they form large colonies.

Crayfish are akin to lobsters and crabs. They can be distinguished by their five pairs of legs, the front having oversized pincers. Crayfish also have a hard exoskeleton. To find them you have to look under stones in rivers or streams or search in the soft mud near chimneylike breathing holes of their nests, where they hide during daytime. Crayfish are generally active at night. To catch them tie bits of offal or internal organs to a string. When the crayfish grabs the bait, pull it to shore, before it has a chance to release the bait.

Saltwater crabs, shrimp, and lobsters can be found anywhere from surf’s edge out to water 10 meters deep. Lobsters and crabs are night creatures and therefore it is best to catch them by night. Crabs will come to bait placed at the edge of the surf, where you can net or trap them. Shrimp may come to a light at night where you can scoop them up with a net.


                       Edible mollusks

Mollusks include octopuses and freshwater and saltwater shellfish such as clams, snails, bivalves, mussels, barnacles, chitons, periwinkles, and sea urchins. You find bivalves similar to freshwater mussel and terrestrial and aquatic snails worldwide under all water conditions.

In rivers, streams, and lakes of northern coniferous forests, there are plentiful of river snails or freshwater periwinkles. These may be globular or pencil point in the shape. You can find mollusks in freshwater shallows, especially with sandy or muddy bottom. You can trace them by the dark elliptical slit of their open valves or by narrow trails they leave in the mud.

Near the sea look in wet sand and the tidal pools. You can also find shellfish hanging on rocks along beaches or extending as reefs into deeper water. From low water upward, there may be snails and limpets cling to rocks and seaweed. Large snails, called chitons, adhere tightly to rocks above the surf line. Mussels usually form dense colonies in rock pools, on logs or at the base of boulders.

You can boil, steam or bake mollusks in the shell. You can prepare excellent stews of a combination of mollusks, greens, and tubers.

There are a few precautions in eating mollusks. In tropical zones, especially during summer, some species may be poisonous. Also, it is not advisable to eat shellfish which are not covered with water at high tide as they may be rotten.


                       Poisonous Fish

Fish represent a good source of protein and fat. Due to their abundance, it may often be easier to catch fish than mammal wildlife. As with any other game, it is good to know the habits of fish as it makes them much easier to catch. In rivers with heavy current, fish will rest in places where there is an eddy, such as near rocks. Fish will also gather in and around submerged foliage, logs, or other objects that offer them shelter. You can also look for them where there are deep pools, under the overhanging brush. It is good to know that fish tend to feed extensively before storms, and are not likely fo feed after it when the water is muddy and swollen. At night fish can be also attracted by light.

In general, there are no poisonous freshwater fish. You should be careful about catfish species though, as it has needlelike protrusions on its dorsal fins and barbels, which can inflict puncture wounds that are painful, easily become infected and do not heal well.

Freshwater fish and saltwater fish caught within a reef or within the influence of freshwater often contain parasites. It is best to cook such fish every time to kill the parasites. The saltwater environment prevents the development of parasites, therefore any marine wildlife obtained further out in the sea can be eaten raw.

The flesh of some saltwater species of fish is poisonous. Examples of those are the porcupine fish, cowfish, triggerfish, oilfish, thorn fish, red snapper, jack, and puffer. You can see them in the picture on the right. The barracuda is not actually poisonous itself but may transmit ciguatera (fish poisoning) if eaten raw.


You can easily find salamanders and frogs around bodies of freshwater. When catching frogs, remember that they are very careful. They seldom leave water’s edge and at any sign of danger plunge into the water and bury themselves in the mud. Also, bear in mind that there are some poisonous species of frogs. To stay safe, avoid any that have distinct ‘X’ marks on their backs or are in any way brightly colored.

Do not confuse toads with frogs. Toads can be normally found in drier environments. Several species of toads secrete a poisonous substance through their skin as a defense against attack. It is best to completely avoid toads.

Salamanders vary in size. They can range in length from few centimeters to even 60. They come out at night and that is also the best time to find them. You should use light and look in the water around mud banks and rocks.


Reptiles are relatively easy to catch and they are also a good source of protein. Reptiles can be eaten raw, but it’s better to cook or roast them as their flesh may contain parasites. There are however few species of reptiles which you should avoid:

  • box turtle – it feeds on poisonous mushrooms, and its flesh may contain highly toxic poison, which is not destroyed by cooking.
  • hawksbill turtle – it lives in the Atlantic Ocean and should be avoided due to poisonous thorax gland.
  • Other species like poisonous snakes, alligators and crocodiles should be avoided. The danger of being hurt or killed is too high to attempt to hunt them.


All species of birds are edible, although you should know that taste may vary significantly depending on species. The taste of fish-eating birds can be improved by removing their skin. Many species, like pigeons, for example, can be taken from their roosts at night by hand. Some species during their nesting season will not leave their nests during the day even if approached.

Birds often have regular flyways from the roost to water, feeding areas, etc. If you’re watchful, you should be able to observe them. You can stretch nets on these flyways to catch birds. Most important though are roasting sites and waterholes. Trapping and snaring is most efficient there.

Do not forget that nesting birds can be a perfect source of eggs. If you find a nest the best strategy is to remove all but two or three eggs and mark those that are left. Birds tend to lay new eggs to fill clutch. You can continue to remove unmarked eggs, leaving those marked.


Mammals are food which many people are most used to. They are also good protein sources. There are though some drawbacks to hunting mammals. All of them have teeth and will bite in self-defense. Such bites can present a serious risk of infection. Mammals are often very defensive of their young. In general, you should assume that the bigger the mammal, the greater the harm it can do to you. Remember that in a survival situation even small wounds may turn to be deadly.

All mammals are edible but it is wise to avoid:

  • livers of a polar bear and bearded seal as levels of vitamin A contained by them may be toxic,
  • glands of the platypus, a native mammal of Tasmania and Australia as they are poisonous,
  • scavenging mammals, such as the opossum, as they may carry diseases.

Survival Medicine


A man is a natural species. In order to survive he needs water, food and needs to take care of his basic hygiene. In a survival situation, despite the stress and other dangers, you may not forget about basic requirements for maintaining health. Forgetting about your body will undermine your strength and health and will greatly reduce your chances of survival. Below you can find basic information about how to maintain health while fighting for survival in the wilderness.

Water – crucial for survival

You lose water all the time

The human body loses water through normal body processes (sweating, urinating, and defecating). Also many processes, for example digesting, require water. During an average day when the atmospheric temperature is 20 degrees Celsius (C) (68 degrees Fahrenheit), the average person loses and therefore requires 2 to 3 liters of water. Of course, in a survival situation, you will probably lose more water because of stress and extensive activities that you will have to perform in order to survive. Other factors, such as heat exposure, cold exposure, high altitude, burns, or illness, can cause your body to lose even more water.

Effects of dehydration

All the water that you lose every day has to be replaced. Dehydration is a serious problem with which you will have to deal with survival situations. It will decrease your performance and take away your strength. Severe dehydration can also be a cause of death. Have a look at the following results of the loss of water in your organism:

  • A 5 percent loss of body fluids results in thirst, irritability, nausea, and weakness. You will still be able to cope with your tasks, but it will be more difficult to focus and you will act much slower.
  • A 10 percent loss results in dizziness, headache, inability to walk, and a tingling sensation in the limbs. You are no longer able to perform difficult tasks, you are very weak and unable to concentrate for even short periods.
  • A 15 percent loss is severe dehydration. It results in dim vision, painful urination, swollen tongue, deafness, and a numb feeling in the skin. Your body cannot maintain its natural functions. Your reactions become mechanical and basic instincts start to take over.
  • If the amount of your body fluids falls below 15 percent, chances of death because of dehydration are very serious.

Symptoms of dehydration

It is very important to recognize first dehydration symptoms and act before your state becomes serious. Described below are the most common first symptoms of dehydration:

  • Fatigue
  • Dark urine with a very strong odor
  • Low urine output
  • Emotional instability
  • Delayed capillary refill in fingernail beds
  • Loss of skin elasticity
  • Trench line down the center of the tongue
  • Thirst

Prevent dehydration – Drink a lot

The best way to prevent the loss of water is to drink a lot of it. Depending on the circumstances, this will be even up to 30 liters per day. The best indicator of the proper level of body fluids is urine output of at least 0.5 litres per day. The important thing to mention here is that it is better to receive smaller amounts of water often, than a lot once a day, as a normal person cannot assimilate more than 1 liter at a time.

Remember about electrolytes

While losing water, no matter whether it is due to sweating or urinating, we lose electrolytes (body salts). An average diet can usually replace the loss of salts, however, when in extreme survival situations or illness additional sources may need to be provided. A mixture of 0.25 teaspoon of salt to 1 liter of water can provide a concentration that your body tissues will readily absorb.

Drinking tips for a survival situation

  • Always drink while eating – your body loses o lot of water while digesting. If you do not have water to drink – DO NOT EAT!
  • Acclimatize – when you get acclimatized to your environment, your body will act more efficiently.
  • Conserve sweat, not water – Limit activities that produce sweat, but do not stop drinking water. Water is vital for survival and many of your body’s crucial activities depend on it. You cannot stop drinking. When sweating, you lose your water in an unnecessary way.
  • Ration Water – Until you find a suitable source, try to ration your water sensibly. In average conditions, a daily intake of half a liter of a sugar-water mixture (2 teaspoons per liter) will suffice to prevent severe dehydration for at least a week, provided you keep water losses to a minimum by limiting activity and heat gain or loss. But remember that this is an estimate. In hot climates, you may not last two days on half a liter per day. You have to watch your body’s symptoms and adjust your intake accordingly.

Food is crucial for survival

Food is second on the list, as without food you are able to survive even up to several weeks. Nonetheless, food is necessary for you to stay healthy. Without food, your mental and physical capabilities will deteriorate rapidly, and you will become weak and your morale will fall. Food replenishes the substances that your body burns and provides energy. It provides vitamins, minerals, salts, and other elements essential to good health.

In nature, there are two basic sources of food:

  • plants
  • animals, fish

Both of these groups provide you with energy and substances required for you well being. An average person requires about 2000 calories per day to function normally. An adequate amount of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins without an adequate caloric intake will lead to starvation. Your body will burn its own tissue for energy.


Plants provide carbohydrates, which are the main source of energy. Plants can often provide sufficient energy for the body to function normally. Many plant foods like nuts and seeds can give you enough protein and oils for normal efficiency. Roots, green vegetables, and plant food often contain natural sugar, which will provide calories and carbohydrates that give your body natural energy.

Animal food

Meat is more nourishing than plant food. It also may be more readily available in some places. However, getting meat is more difficult. You need to know the habits of, and how to capture the various wildlife. In survival situations, to satisfy your immediate food needs, first seek the more abundant and more easily obtained wildlife, such as insects, crustaceans, mollusks, fish, and reptiles. These can satisfy your immediate food needs while you are preparing traps and snares for larger game.

Personal Hygiene

Cleanliness is an important factor in preventing infection and disease. It becomes even more crucial in a survival situation. Poor hygiene drastically reduces your chances of survival.

Wash yourself

A good daily wash with soap is ideal, but you can stay clean without it. Using cold water and cloth, you can still wash. You should take special care of your feet, armpits, crotch, hand, and hair as these are prime areas for infestation or infection.

or at least Have an Air bath

If water is a scarce resource, get yourself an air bath. Remove as much of your clothing as possible and expose your body to the sun and fresh air for at least 1 hour. Be careful not to sunburn. You should use this opportunity to inspect yourself for any infections, infestations or injures – early treated, they will be easier to manage. In survival situations, you may be used to being sore and it is easy to overlook changes in your skin till it’s too late.

Make soap

If you don’t have soap, you can use ash or sand. If your situation allows, you can also make soap from animal fat and wood ashes. To make soap, you need to follow the steps:

  1. Extract grease from animal fat by cutting the fat into small pieces and then cooking them in a pot.
  2. You have to add water to the pot to keep the fat from sticking as it cooks.
  3. Cook the fat slowly, stirring frequently.
  4. After the fat is rendered, pour the grease into a container, where it will harden.
  5. Place ashes in a container with a spout near the bottom.
  6. Pour water over the ashes and collect in a separate container the liquid that drips out of the spout. This liquid is the potash or lye. Another way to get it is to pour slurry (the mixture of ashes and water) through a straining cloth.
  7. Mix two parts of grease with one part of potash in a cooking pot.
  8. Place the mixture over a fire and boil until it thickens.

After the mixture cools, you can use it in its semiliquid state directly from the pot, but you can also pour it into a pan and allow it to harden. You would then cut it into bars for later use.

Clean your hands

If you have germs on your hands, they can infect food and wounds. Wash your hands after handling any material that can potentially carry germs. Also wash them after visiting the latrine, caring for the sick, and before handling any food, food utensils or drinking water. Keep your fingernails closely trimmed and clean, and keep your fingers out of your mouth. Biting your fingernails is the best way to get gems into your system.

Clean your hair

Your hair can become a haven for parasites and bacteria. Keeping it clean, combed, and trimmed helps you avoid this danger. Actually, the shorter hair you have, the easier it is to keep it clean. Remember though, that if you have very short hair or none at all, extra precautions have to be taken to protect your head from the sun and cold.

Clean your clothing and bedding

Keep your clothing and bedding as clean as possible. This reduces the chance of skin infection and the danger of parasitic infestation. Clean your outer clothing whenever it becomes soiled. Wear clean underclothing. If there is insufficient water, ”air” clean your clothing – shake it, air, and expose it to the sun for 2 hours. If you use a sleeping bag, turn it inside out every day, fluff it, and air it. These small activities may prevent you from getting skin infections and parasites.

Clean your teeth

Clean your mouth and teeth at least once a day.

If you don’t have a toothbrush

If you do not have a toothbrush, you can make a chewing stick. To do it – find a twig about 15–25 centimeters long and about 1 cm wide, then chew one end of the twig until fibers get separated. You can now clean your teeth with the fibres.

Another method for cleaning your teeth is to wrap a strip of clean cloth around one finger and rub your teeth with it.

You can also brush your teeth with sand, baking soda, salt of soap, rinsing your mouth with water, saltwater or bark tea afterward.

Floss your teeth

Use a string or fiber to floss your teeth. This is especially important if you do not have a toothbrush. Provisional toothbrushes may not get in between your teeth to remove food particles from there.

Care for your feet

Ability to move on your own is of great importance in survival situations. You have to pay special attention to your feet to keep them in good condition.

Wash your feet

Wash your feet every day. If they are tired, give them a massage. If you do not have sufficient water, clean them with ash or sand and with a clean cloth. On any occasion possible ”air” them. Keep your socks and shoes in a good condition, and especially – try to keep them dry. There is nothing worse for your feet than being locked in damp shoes for several days. If your shoes are wet, put them on only when you need to walk, dry them for the rest of the time. If it is cold wrap your feet in a cloth while drying your shoes.

Treat your blisters

Check your feet for blisters daily. Blisters are potentially dangerous, because if they burst open, they expose your system to germs, what may cause infections. If you have a small blister, do not open it. An intact blister is safe from infection. Yet be careful not to burst it. Secure it, so that it does not grow while you walk. If it bursts, you will have to treat it as an open wound.

If you have large blisters, risk of their burst or tear under pressure is too big to leave them to heal alone. To help the blister heal quicker, you will have to remove the liquid from it. The best way to do that is to use a sewing type sterilized a needle and a sterilized thread. You should run the needle with the thread through the blister at its base. Then detach the needle and leave the thread in the blister – it will ensure that it does not close and will dive the liquid outside, keeping the hole as small as possible. Secure the blister to prevent it from tearing or growing. You will remove the thread when the blister is almost healed. Remember that this method is not recommended if you will have to walk in wet shoes as water with germs will get into your blister.

If you do not have sterilized thread, you should use needle only. You can easily sterilise it by exposing it to open fire. You should make a puncture at the base of the blister and squeeze the liquid outside through the hole. Leave your foot to air for a while and then secure it with a clean cloth and protect it from tearing. In most cases, you will have to repeat the operation several times, before the liquid stops gathering. Remember to always sterilize your needle and always clean the blister properly and secure it with a clean cloth.

If you notice that dirt got into your blister, it is usually best to tear off the whole blister and treat as an open wound. Dirt in a blister can easily cause a serious infection.


You need to get sufficient rest to keep going for many days. Plan your rest. Try to sleep enough amount of hours and get some rest during the day between activities. Even a change between mental and physical activities can be refreshing.

Keep your campsite clean

Do not soil your campsite area with urine or feces. Use latrines, if available. When latrines are not available, dig holes and cover the waste or at least find a good place, which is distant from your camp, yet easy for you to access. In the same way, dispose of the remaining of your food. This will prevent germs from spreading around your camp.

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